© Copyright – 2016 – Athletics Illustrated

During the first round of the men’s 1500-metre heats, three of the fastest athletes in the field had seasonal best times of 3:29.33, 3:30.49 and 3:31.19 respectively; they comfortably sailed through to the semi-finals as none of them finished beyond second place in their respective heats. These three athletes are all representing Kenya, which begs the question; is it going to be a clean sweep of medals by the Kenyans in the final of this event?

It may be hard to tell given that the 1500m race is one of the most unpredictable events and anything can happen even during the final fifty metres. The pack is always together, almost throughout the race. They push, jostle and get boxed in towards the inside lane, these are some of the scenarios that often cause major upsets in this race.

However, if there is one clear favourite for the men’s 1500m Olympic gold medal in Rio, then it has to be Kenya’s Asbel Kiprop. He has remained unbeaten all year except in the Monaco Diamond League meet in July where he had to miss training for some days before heading there, as he had issues to do with his management back in Kenya. But he has been back in training since.

Besides that, he also has an impressive record in the distance being a one-time Olympic and three time IAAF world champion. His ambitions to defend his Olympic title in London were shattered by an injury that saw him finish last in the finals.

Elijah Manangoi, the other Kenyan here, with the second fastest seasonal best time behind Kiprop is the reigning world silver medallist and has been always consistently behind Kiprop in the IAAF Diamond League races. They follow follow each other on the points standings.

In the only race that Kiprop has been beaten this year, it was Ronald Kwemoi who won it. He is the third Kenyan in this race. It is as though the three Kenyans have been in a class of their own this year, only facing tough competition amongst themselves. It will be interesting to watch how they will fare when they meet the other medal contenders during the finals of this event on Saturday, August 20.

The defending champion from London 2012, Makhloufi Taoufik of Algeria will be a huge challenger to the Kenyans. He is in good form and just proved that by winning a silver medal in the men’s 800m race behind David Rudisha. If the race works to his advantage, perhaps by being a slow race, then he might produce a strong finishing kick and win the gold medal.

Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco is another greatly talented and experienced athlete and a contender for the Olympic gold medal at this event. He is the bronze medallist from the London Olympics and also won a bronze medal at the IAAF world championships last year in Beijing.

Another contender, Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman is the 2014 world indoor champion in the 1500m and also the winner of the event at the Continental Cup in the same year. He is also a bronze medallist from the 2013 IAAF world championships in Moscow and has always been a top contender in many other major races over the distance.

There are also the surprise medallists that always come out of nowhere and land on the podium positions. Mathew Centrowitz of the US, who is also in this race, did that at the Moscow world championships in 2013 to win a silver medal. Perhaps Jacub Holusa with a personal and seasonal best time of 3:33.36 who just won his heat during the first rounds, or someone else, could surprise during the finals. Only time will tell.